The Court will hear arguments in Janus v. AFSCME on Monday morning. As Rachel Cohen explained for The Intercept, the suit was originally filed by a public worker who objected to having union dues deducted from his paycheck. It is “a case experts have long predicted could strike a mortal blow to public sector unions”:
The plaintiff, an Illinois state worker named Mark Janus, has argued that he has a First Amendment right to avoid paying anything to a union that bargains on his behalf. With the current ideological leanings of the court, the plaintiff—and the conservative groups backing his lawsuit—face strong odds of victory.
Conservatives argue that AFSCME has violated Janus’s free speech rights: He has no option but to financially support the union. But there’s an important caveat. Janus may not want to pay dues to the union, but he still benefits from the union’s work, and he’ll continue to do so even if he wins the right to stop paying dues. A verdict in his favor, then, could starve public sector unions of funds, and weaken their ability to successfully bargain on behalf of public employees in states that haven’t already adopted right-to-work laws.
To better understand how right-to-work laws can harm public employees, take a look at West Virginia, where teachers and public workers are on day three of an illegal work stoppage. The state’s teachers rank 48th in the nation for pay. Additionally, state funding for its insurance plan for public employees hasn’t kept pace with inflation, meaning that it essentially cuts insurance coverage every year. If Janus goes badly, West Virginia’s woes could be harbingers of nationwide troubles to come.